Unionization effort is underway for student administrative assistants, workers

Petition to seek better working conditions, living wage


Chris Woodard

Robert Gonzalez, a third-year political science major and student union organizer, said organizers had surpassed the 4,000 required student worker signatures to begin the union election processes, pending verification from the California State University Labor Board. (Photo by Jacob Peterson, Graphic in Canva by Chris Woodard)

Anthony Dehzad

A petition to establish a union for student assistants at Sacramento State will be advancing to the California State University labor board in the fall. 

These unionizing efforts seek to better working conditions, increase compensation and improve healthcare benefits. 

“I worked in the financial aid office and we had about 20 student assistants and only one staff member,” said Robert Gonzalez, a California State University Employee Union organizer and Sac State student. “What prompted us to move forward with unionizing is that we are going to be able to fight for collective bargaining, which will make sure we have living wages.” 

Though the union would benefit students who work on campus, it is limited to students employed with the California State University system, and therefore the State of California. These students include campus tutors, library assistants and those working in administration offices.

Students who are contracted under University Enterprises, Inc., like food service workers, would not receive the benefits the union would offer, Gonzalez said. This is because UEI is not associated with the state. 

Now, with 4,000 signatures on the petition, the next step will be for the union to receive approval from the board and start elections.

Gonzalez, who is leading unionization efforts at Sac State, said the petition aims to increase the student working wage minimum from $15 an hour to $21, increase staffing and expand the working 20-hour weekly limit.

With a majority of workers in campus offices being student assistants, students are taking the role of staff members without the same pay, Gonzalez said.

Along with a living wage and more staffing, the union would also provide student workers with mental health resources, up to six free units per semester, health insurance and up to $3,000 in student-loan forgiveness. 

Alyssa Chavez is a fourth-year child development student who works at the Office of Admissions and Outreach on campus.

Chavez said her job keeps her busy, as she is responsible for giving campus tours to potential students along with other tasks. 

“There is a lot that goes into this position,” said Chavez, who makes $17 an hour. “It would be nice to have more of a higher pay for the work that I do, especially being a full-time student. It would help a lot.”

In past semesters, Chavez said she has also dealt with a lack of staffing. 

“There weren’t a lot of students working in the admissions and outreach office, so I was working a lot more,” Chavez said. “I had to make alterations to the fieldwork I do for child development and focus more on work since they had a shortage of students in the office.”

Jacob Maleonedo, a fourth-year psychology major, said a union would help students focus on their studies, while not stressing about work. He said Sac State needs to do “what’s best for their students.” 

“If you have a student who is overworked then they are not focusing on school,” Maleonedo said. “Our priority should be our school work and the university should be doing everything in its power to help student workers.” 

Shubhangi Domokos, the chief of staff for the California Labor Federation, said she is excited to see the surge in students unionizing. 

With University of California students going on strike last semester, Domokos said the fight for working rights has spilled over to the CSU.  

Domokos said academic institutions haven’t treated student workers as equals to staff members when campuses couldn’t run without the work from students. 

“Students are starting to realize that they deserve respect for the work that they do on campus,” Domokos said. “Student workers provide valuable labor to the institution to make sure it is functioning properly, and they deserve recognition for that.”